TOKYO – The governor of Japan’s Okinawa prefecture, Denny Tamaki, said on Friday he was ready to use all legal remedies possible to block the relocation of a controversial United States military base within the region, a campaign which he intends to take to Washington next week.
Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo, Denny Tamaki, the recently elected governor, voiced his opposition to the transfer of the Futenma military base to Nago city in Henoko Bay in Okinawa.
Tamaki said the prefecture would keep blocking construction efforts as the presence of US bases since World War II had led to a number of incidents, causing “pain and suffering” to the local population.
Tamaki was elected governor on Oct. 31 in an election focused on the future of US military bases in the region.
On Thursday, he urged Japan and the US to move towards resolving the conflict through dialog instead of resorting to legal measures.
The governor is set to visit the US next week to meet government representatives and members of Congress in addition to addressing a conference at New York University to explain the Okinawa situation.
He insisted that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government requires the approval of Okinawa’s local authorities to continue construction work, resumed recently after being stalled for months, at the site of the new base.
Two decades ago, the US and Japan agreed to close the Futenma base and move it to the Henoko coastal area, a more thinly-populated region in Nago, where it has faced fresh opposition from citizens due to social and environmental concerns.
The US military bases in Okinawa, of which Futenma is one of the most important, are a frequent source of tensions due to the opposition by the residents.
Half of the 50,000 US military personnel stationed in Japan are located in Okinawa.
Okinawa legislators recently approved a referendum over the future of the base, although the Japanese government has said it will not affect its plans.